'Without the right support, that sense of uncertainty can cause significant distress – and it carries over into the workplace'
More than two-thirds (68 per cent) of employed Canadians feel their employer has supported their mental health amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report from Canada Life.
The most helpful mental health supports that employees have received from their employer are the following, based on a survey of 1,600 employed adults in Canada:
- mental health-specific resources, such as information on existing or available tools and services (32 per cent)
- flexible work arrangements, such as working from home or working during different hours of the day (31 per cent).
- frequent communication and check-ins, including video conferencing, emails and other electronic social supports (23 per cent)
"It's been almost a year since the pandemic first took hold in Canada, and while vaccines are rolling out, there's still a lot of uncertainty," says Mary Ann Baynton, director for collaboration and strategy, workplace strategies for mental health at Canada Life. "Without the right support, that sense of uncertainty can cause significant distress – and it carries over into the workplace. That's where employers can play a vital role."
Interestingly, Canadians with previous mental health issues are not at greater risk of COVID-related distress. All employees are at equal risk, finds the survey.
However, 56 per cent of female respondents indicate they're experiencing COVID-related distress, compared with just 44 per cent of male respondents.
Meanwhile, 86 per cent of workers say things like social check-ins, flexible work arrangements and access to mental health resources are more helpful than financial support. Only nine per cent indicate things like bonuses and pay raises helped support their mental health.
"It's not entirely surprising that financial support was less important to these respondents since they're currently employed. They may simply feel fortunate to have work when so many other Canadians don't," says Baynton. "Research clearly shows there are simple actions employers can take that make a difference, like making well-being part of everyday conversation at work, picking up the phone to ask how someone is doing or pointing them to available resources that can help."
One in five (18 per cent) Canadian employers have raised the maximums for their psychological service benefits since the pandemic began, according to a separate survey by the Conference Board of Canada.